Friday 7 May 2021

Out of the Sightline

The expansive nature of the College makes it difficult to provide visibility on the many aspects of College operations that enable it to plan, innovate, conduct and deliver a wide variety of services and programs with such effectiveness. An organisation that approximates the size of a small town with over 400 living residentially across three boarding houses and 51 families on site; that contains a daily student population of approximately 1,600 students involving 1,200 families; with an Old Boy network of over 10,000 spread throughout the state, the nation and the world, is one that needs an enormous but often invisible infrastructure to facilitate its many activities and events. To each of those beyond the sightline and who contribute with such frequency and generosity, I extend my deepest thanks, for they are all part of the mission of the College that enables it to respond to the needs of young men in a way that ensures their safety and their spiritual and academic formation, along with one of the most expansive service and co-curricular programs across the nation.

One of the many features of the College is the Health Care Centre, which has been led for the better part of 30 years by Matron Neal. Each and every day – including weekends, sometimes for 24 hours per day, the staff at the Health Care Centre minister to the manifold needs of the boys. They do so with great generosity, a deep regard for the welfare of the young men entrusted to their care, and with consummate professional practice. With over 11,000 admissions each year, this is one of the busiest school-based health care centres in Australia. Currently, the College has MOUs in place with Sydney University for nurses in the undergraduate program and for those pursuing Masters’ Degrees in paediatrics. This keeps the centre abreast of best practice in a rapidly changing medical field and enables all of the health professionals who assist at the centre to provide the best service that is available in schools. These are some of our unsung heroes on the front line who have steered the College through the pandemic and responded to everything from the common cold to sporting injuries and medication management.

Our team of psychologists are another of the professional services that offer relentless support to the boys every day across both campuses. Headed by Ben Moffatt and supported by four other registered psychologists, the team not only provide much needed counselling support on a recurrent basis, but also develop systems to proactively address issues of mental health. In the case of the latter, on site accreditation is provided for teachers and support staff with the Youth Mental Health Awareness program and regular surveying of student mental health and anxiety is undertaken to see where intervention is required in advance. Five fields of data are analysed on year level bases – Sleep, Diet, Exercise, Purpose and Relationships. These profiles inform the College of where extra work is required, sometimes around the time of assessment, in order to work with the boys to help them ride some of the bumps that invariably present across the school year.

A new team has formed over the last 12 months to guide the College through a deeper understanding of risk in order to create the safest and most robust set of circumstances across myriad programs and activities that are part of the educational platform. This is hardly flashy stuff, but it is fundamental to the effectiveness, efficacy and safety of College life. The strength of this team has been palpable throughout the course of the pandemic but is finding expression daily through the manifold assessment of College operations and events. Detailed planning along with considered attention to the demands of a large site with multiple facilities and programs requires considerable expertise and time, which is forthcoming on a daily basis.

Another of the extraordinary assets of the College are the grounds and facilities. Both are extensive and both require enormous provision by way of time, upgrade, maintenance and constant review to ensure that the many elements of the educational program can be delivered unimpeded. From the audio-visual facilities maintained by the IT team that now work across bluetooth space, to the adequacy of buildings and the upkeep of the ovals, a small but dedicated group of staff work assiduously to ensure that the operations of the College are in optimum order, despite the manifold demands that can see grounds and facilities used from the earliest hours to late in the evening.

There are many others who contribute in the most significant of ways – out of the sightline, to the quality of College operations. Among others, they include library staff, admin and support staff, maintenance staff, those who work in Licona and Archives, supervisors and tutors in boarding, Gartlan staff, coaches and managers, and the list goes on. The visibility of teachers in classrooms is palpable and valued each and every day; the work of those who are based in offices or in different sections of the grounds who go about their daily routines with commitment and effectiveness, is not. In true Ignatian spirit, I extend to each and every one a statement of gratitude for their quiet and purposeful dedication for which we are all the beneficiaries.

Best wishes to all mums on Sunday. The institution of motherhood has many vital expressions, a significant amount of which is also out of the sightline. May it be a day when all honour and thank mothers for the gift they are to family and community life.

Post Script: Late yesterday, the College was informed that it has been honoured with a National Award for Excellence in Indigenous Education and Boarding Leadership. I extend my deepest thanks to Dominic Wilkinson and his team, and to the Co-ordinator of the First Nations Program, Kaleb Taylor, for their outstanding work in this area over the last five years.

Dr Paul Hine